WHAT do you want to bring with you to the next life?

This is the question artist Maria Taniguchi asked some residents of Calatagan, Batangas during her research for her Lopez Memorial Museum exhibit, Grave Findings, displayed from May 24 to Aug. 11 .

Many wanted material things—jewelry, cellular phones, guitars, and computers. A few wanted to take relatives and loved ones, only changing their morbid request upon Taniguchi’s suggestion.

The Calatagan digging sites, the subject of Taniguchi’s exhibit, are wide funeral grounds discovered by American archaeologist Robert Fox in the 1930s. Among the artifacts found were little clay jars, bowls, and plates that were presumably filled with food, drinks, and other offerings to ensure an enjoyable afterlife for the dead.

For her exhibit, Taniguchi sculpted small stone figures representing the modern residents’ wishes for pabaon.

Countless pottery were also dug up from the site. Exquisitely done in porcelain, clay, stone, and bone, most of the potteries originated from neighboring countries, many of them bearing the blue-and-white designs of China’s Yuan dynasty. But only a third of these can be found in the Lopez Museum. The rest are with the National Archives.

A special piece called “Two Children and Jar” was found by Fox in a local flea market during the height of the excavation. The detailed sculpture of two children called out the artifact’s archaeological value to the archaeologist.

And because 500-year-old pottery requires special care, it has been the Lopez Museum’s responsibility to clean and preserve them in their basement laboratory.

A taped interview showed Calatagan laborers talking about their excavation experiences. They claimed that there had been literally truckloads of those artifacts from the site, but many of them were broken and disposed of because their real value were never realized.

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In the 1930’s, the Calatagan Archaeological Project was initiated, but the real discoveries came pouring only in the 60’s. The evidence of active trade between our forefathers and our Asian neighbors, along with the complex social system of ancient communities, gave us a clear idea of how they once lived.

Fox had his claim to fame in the Calatagan excavation, and reportedly asked for help from the Lopez clan for the excavation. The letter of solicitation he sent to the Lopezes was included in the exhibit.

Eugenio Lopez Sr. was the benefactor of the archaeological project. In honor of the scientist who discovered the Calatagan site, Taniguchi created a plaster bust of Fox. F.C. Garcia


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